Comedy Month: Downstairs at the King's Head - Review

October 18, 2011



A New Material Night in Crouch End might seem like a bit of a gamble on a drizzly Thursday evening - a safer bet would be to stay in and watch The Great British Bake-Off rather than brave the sweaty Northern Line at rush hour. But sadly, staying in and watching The Great British Bake-Off rarely proves useful when working in Corporate Entertainment (Rarely...) and more importantly, anyone who did stay in to watch The Great British Bake-Off would have missed out on an evening of brilliant new material from new and experienced comics Downstairs at the King's Head.

Few comics on the bill have as strong an opening line as Mark Cornell, the relative newcomer's routine about the intricacies of the English Language opens with a belter of a gag about the shifting meanings of the phrase "Oh Yeah" that gets the crowd on his side immediately. His act is gleefully finicky and asks the audience to keep up with his rapid fire wordplay but it's all the more rewarding for it. Another great opening line came from Dixon Jones whose anecdote about a trip to Tate Modern is full of artfully constructed reveals and reversals that keep the crowd guessing as to where each story is headed.

Darren Discovers *Insert something that makes people pull a surprise face* Ha ha ha... What a caption.

Self-professed giant man Darren Walsh managed to deliver his routine with a slight crick in his neck from stooping in the low ceilinged basement venue. To his credit, this didn't diminish the effect of his routine which was full of surreal one-liners and quirky observations. Even more surreal was comedy mime act George Keeler whose completely silent routine left the audience with no choice but to explode with nervous laughter.  

Henning Wehn will be a familiar face (or voice) to anyone whose tuned in to a Radio 4 panel show or comedy programme having made countless appearances on the station over the past few years. The bemused German Comedy Ambassador's act deals with his outsider status living in the UK and manages to smuggle in some hard truths about the English thanks to his endearingly naive but mercilessly blunt Germanic delivery.

Maintaining the gentle Radio 4 comedy feel was writer, performer and theatre director Cindy Oswin, who scuttled onto the stage swaddled in a cardigan and peering through her bifocals to deliver a gentle self-deprecating routine with a focus on ageing that managed to hold the attention of a crowd of 20-30-somethings who no doubt left wishing she was their collective auntie.

Cindy couldn't have been a stronger contrast to Kane Brown who was nothing less than a growling, bellowing comedy battering ram. Brown's material is aggressive, confrontational and constantly edgy but his charisma and willingness to interact with the audience carries the room along with a routine that, while far from polite, had the room energised in a way that no one else really managed.

So plenty to think about for future corporate comedy enquiries. For more information on upcoming comedy gigs Downstairs at the King's Head, head on over to their website.